Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vocab Videos: A Review

Vocab Videos in an online learning tool that uses videos to illustrate over 500 SAT level vocabulary words.  It is compiled of several ongoing series, broken apart into segments.  Each segment contains 20 vocabulary words that are illustrated in about 20 seconds.  The program utilizes auditory and visual aspects of learning as the narrator says the word and the meaning, the actors participate in a scene that illustrates the word, and then the narrator recaps how the definition relates to what the student just saw in the video.  It is all very fast-paced and modern--not drudgery at all.  I wish Vocab Videos would have existed when I was in high school, studying sheets of paper with defintions on them.  Ugh. 

The videos are humorous, sometimes hilarious, and really help solidify these sometimes-tricky words into your brain for good. Some of the series are TV show parodies of shows like Lost, The Office, Gossip Girl, etc.  If your student doesn't watch these shows, the satire might go over their heads, but nevertheless, they will still learn the meaning of the vocabulary words.

Click here to see samples of some of the Vocab Videos.

In addition to the videos, there is an opportunity to print activity sheets for the words, take online quizzes, and even make your own set of digital flashcards using your own definitions and even your own images!  I liked this part of the program, as it does exactly what I used to do last year by hand with our history curriculum.  I used to hunt down images for each word and then print them out for my kids to use as flashcards.  This will save me so much ink!  The flashcard feature also brings more value to the product, as you can use it with your younger kids as a tie-in with their curriculum, and use it as it was designed (with the pre-loaded SAT vocab videos) with your high schoolers.

And I say that because it really is designed for older students, not just because the words are upper-level, but the subject matter (dating and so forth) is more mature.  Also, in one of the Lost parodies that I watched, the words "pissed", "what the hell", "sucks" "Oh my God" and "are we lovers?" were uttered, and not just once. Granted, the character has amnesia and is frustrated when his attempts to survive are a miserable failure, AND the company is trying to appeal to today's teenagers by setting itself apart from other boring drill-style programs, so I see where they are coming from.  But conservative families need to be aware of this before purchasing.

Teachers and educators are able to add students to their "class" and monitor each student's indivdual progress as they take the online quizzes.  There is also a glossary that lists all 500 words alphabetically for ease of use or reference.

I think this is a program that I would use with my kids when they are a little older.  I have enjoyed watching the videos and brushing up on some of those forgotten words myself.  I aced a few of the quizzes, but got an 18/20 on another.  I still have some stuff to learn :)  But just for the sheer sake of the language and situations, I wouldn't make it a part of my 5th and 7th graders' daily assignments. 

Student Memberships to Vocab Videos are $24.99 for  6 months and $39.99 for 12 months.  This gives access to all 500 videos, online quizzes, worksheets, downloadable crossword puzzles and the online flashcard maker.

Teacher Memberships include all of these features, as well as the classroom management functions to monitor student progress. These are the costs per year:

1 Month Educator Trial is FREE
Small Educator Account (up to 20 students) is $74.00
Medium Educator Account (up to 40 students) is $134.99
and a Large Educator Account (up to 100 students) is $254.99.
If you have more than 100 students, you will need to contact the company for pricing. 

And now, there is a Vocab Videos Workbook that you can purchase for $11.99 to use as a supplement with your online subscription.  Click here to order the workbook.

Check out other reviews of Vocab Videos by clicking right here.

**Disclaimer:  I was provided access to Vocab Videos in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Math Made Easy

Phew!  Two math products to review in just a few weeks!  However, this one is a little different because instead of delving into fractions and pre-algebra concepts, it focuses on something a little more basic:  mastering multiplication facts.  Don't be fooled.  Just because my sons are entering 5th and 7th grade this school year doesn't mean they don't still use their fingers or go through an entire song in their head before telling me what 9x8 is.  And that means that they never memorized them.  Boy, are we in trouble.

Even though "Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy" is geared for grades 1-6 and even though most of the exercises looked a bit juvenile for their liking, I've still made them sit down and go through the program.  I don't make them color every worksheet (and there are alot of coloring sheets with clowns and kitties and bunnies that made my sons look at me like "Whaa?").  But there is still some quality material here that I think is worth some merit. 

For instance, I love the way the author teaches the simple things first.  The Zeroes.  The Ones.  The Tens.  The Elevens.  And then she shows you that if you look at a multiplication fact chart (1x1 through 12x12) and cross off all the 0,1,10 and 11 facts and then cross out all the duplicate problems (keep 2x4, nix 4x2, etc.), that you only have 36 problems remaining to memorize!  Split that up into 6 weeks and you only have to memorize 6 facts per week!  That is more than doable! 

There is a pre-test to give on day one, a post-test to give on day 36 and plenty of resources packed in the back.  There are perforated flashcards, a "Chutes & Ladders"-style math game, a spinner-type study tool, and a game where you build a Native American Indian's headdress by adding feathers that match the math facts. 

I'll admit, at my first glance of the cover (rainbows and balloons), the copyright date (1989) and the interior pages (remnants of a coloring book from my childhood--and I'm kinda old), I was turned off by this product.  However, I like the way the author has broken it all down into manageable lessons.  And judging from my sons' current method of multiplying, the teaching tool NEEDS to be simple like this to work. 

The only other negative that I would point out is the price.  I'm not quite sure the collection of worksheets is worthy of a $24.95 price tag.  The copies of the pages don't seem as clean and crisp as other products on the market, it has a comb binding, and honestly, there are many pages that in my opinion, would not be utilized with children in the older range of the age bracket (especially boys) just for sheer lack of interest.  So I'm not sure the value warrants the price.  There are some parents who may feel this is completely reasonable and have no problem with the cost.

So my final word on Math Made Easy is that it could use an updated look to appeal to today's children and it might consider a $19.95 price point.  But the heart of this program is quite good.

Click here to order the product or to learn more about their other products for Addition.

**Disclaimer:  I was given a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review, which I have provided here.